To state everything Gerald Langiri has achieved would require another article.
He is an actor, blogger and casting director. He runs the blog actors.co.ke that is industry driven and saw him named Best Film Blogger/Journalist at the African Film Development Awards (AFDA). Among many other productions, you have seen him in Mali (Don), House of Lungula (Harrison), Fundi-mentals (Joseph), Curse (Leonard) his very own web series ‘In the Forest’ and his latest hit web series Shit Happens. I had a chat with him on his latest production, the industry and the future.
- Your personal website is quite impressive. Has it had any impact on your branding?
I cannot really measure that as I have not been approached for a project based solely on my website. However it has given me more footprint and e a professional look. If you Google me you see my Wikipedia, IMDB profile, maybe a few gossip stories and then my website that is professionally done and managed by me.
2. Your web series, Shit Happens is very risqué. I’m curious to know what does your partner and the rest of your family think of it.
My partner has gotten used to my crazy. My mom having watched House of Lungula and Fundimentals, is not worried by this show. She has come for all my premieres, watched three episodes of Shit Happens and laughed at it all.
If they are thinking something then they have not communicated. My partner is fine with, in fact she has suggested ideas for the show. I would not do it, if those two people felt awkward about it. Then again, this is art. They know I am an actor and this is the kind of thing I do so there is no backlash from them.
Once you read the script it excited you, why?
The story is hilarious. The first episode alone was very interesting. It’s not every day you get a script that is funny to the very end. We do not have a lot of comedy writers in Kenya and our comedy is usually tribal or stereotypical. I am a huge fan of Two and a Half Men and How I met your mother. This script presented a different kind of comedy and I liked it.
- At the 25th Cinema Alliance (April 2017) you mentioned a there is a handful of good actors, a good number of average ones and most are bad. Why is that?
Our education system is the biggest hurdle. Having gone through the 8-4-4 system, we were taught to sing as opposed to acting. Many people leave high school and join the industry with that same knowledge of acting. That causes a breakdown between what they understand as acting and what the industry expects of them.
When we hold auditions we find that out of a hundred people, only 10 to 20 will be really good. Another 30 to 40 average and the rest have no acting experience whatsoever. They are usually starting out or want to get in it for all the wrong reasons.
As a casting director for TV series, movie and ads, we look for people who are as natural as possible. Something shifts when when you tell people that the camera is on because they go back to idea of ACTING. Actors should live in the moment and own that character.
- You have had training with David Morin (Hollywood actor and filmmaker) and (coach) Neil Schell. How has that influenced you as an actor and casting director?
The one thing I have learned from these workshops is how to be still. Being still is one of the hardest things to do as an actor. As Africans we have been taught to speak with our body which does not look good on camera.
When we watch American shows we commend the actors as they make it look seamless. If you really study them you will realize that they are so still it almost looks like they are not doing much on screen.
I also learned how to brand myself as a professional actor. I needed to have a show reel, website, well done resume and head shots. There is also the element of networking. I understood that it is one thing to be a good actor another to actually find work.
- You have been in the industry for about eight years, what has been the hardest thing you have had to constantly overcome as an actor?
Criticism. I left my job for an industry where regular work is not guaranteed. Acting is a business for me so I went in with a bang. However I never went the usual process where one begins as a stage actor before transitioning to TV.
Many actors questioned how I was a good actor yet I did not go through what was seen as the proper process. The audience received me well, but the backlash came from actors. I felt unaccepted in the industry and contemplated leaving the scene or even go back to employment.
I also felt a lot of self-doubt where I questioned whether I was good enough. I have asked people why they said certain things about me and they never gave me a good reason. That way I discovered it was not on me. Now, I have a thick skin.
- What do you think of actors going abroad to look for better opportunities?
In order to get work in the US, you need to get a manager, an agent and have the accent. Otherwise you will be type cast and put in a box where you can only do ‘African’ roles before being picked for other roles. Again there many actors who are looking for the same opportunities as you.
If you are going to abroad to study drama and film it’s easier because you go through the system. But if you leave to look for work as Gerald, it’s going to be a lot of work because you are starting from the bottom. I would rather stay in Kenya, do my best and get recognized for my work such that when Hollywood comes knocking, they look for me.
- As an actor you usually have a script and a director on set, how is being on K24’s Talk Central different for you?
Interesting because I am very talkative. I am being myself and there is no pressure to act like someone else. The pressure is the public not liking me as Gerald. I also think I am charming and I have a nice personality (Laughs). We discuss topics and give opinions which comes easy for me because I am very opinionated.
- Is this a beginning of a future in broadcasting?
I had a show that was cancelled because I was fat. I am joking. I did a show called #itLIVE with Gerald Langiri but there was a change in management and terms that lead to it being cancelled. I would not mind hosting my own show.
- You have a handsome little boy, Travis. How has he changed your life?
Usually people expect a deep answer and for me there has been no change. I am not sure whether that’s a good or bad thing. We planned on being parents so nothing caught us off guard.
Some people say they became more focused after being fathers, I was focused before that. Of course there is one more mouth to feed which comes with the territory of a being father. That is the responsibility of being a father and should not come as a surprise.
- You just turned 32, how does that feel?
I am still in my 20’s.
- What would you tell you 22 year old self?
Plan your life well and leave room for shit to happen. Live life. When you get to your 30s there are things you cannot do anymore. However live your life knowing there is a tomorrow.
- You have done a lot as an actor and contributed to the growth of the industry in your own way. What do you want from your career moving forward?
To be a rich actor which comes with being paid well. It would be nice to do one project in a year that’s it because I would love to act for the rest of my life. Having a family is pushing me to diversify. I am getting into producing and directing my own stuff to make that money as well.
This post was first published on Zumi